July 30, 2012

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

Intermittent Picks and Pans, plus Awards of Dubious Merit Standard Disclaimers: Please set appropriate followups. Recommendation does not factor in price. Not all books will have arrived in your area this week. An archive can be found on my homepage, http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/Rants Almost every day since the last review post has hit 100F or more. Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): The Dark Knight Rises, Prepare to Die!, Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #4, In this installment: The Dark Knight Rises, Prepare to Die!, Transformers ReGeneration One #80.5, SDCC Skybound Sampler 2012, Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #4, Sanctuary #5, Ultimate Spider-Man #3, Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes #4, Young Justice #18 "Other Media" Capsules: Things that are comics-related but not necessarily comics (i.e. comics-based movies like Iron Man or Hulk), or that aren't going to be available via comic shops (like comic pack-ins with DVDs) will go in this section when I have any to mention. They may not be as timely as comic reviews, especially if I decide to review novels that take me a week or two (or ten) to get around to. The Dark Knight Rises: DC Entertainment - One of the things you can do with a richly developed property like Batman is hide your foreshadowing very well. What's a clue, and what's an easter egg? Very hard to tell until after the fact, which means a lot of seemingly innocuous bits of characterization only later turn out to be Really Important Clues (although there were still the occasional bits of obvious foreshadowing anyway, and the law of character conservation limited the suspects on most of the core mysteries). At nearly three hours, it paces more like three episodes of a TV show (albeit with a much bigger budget than any TV miniseries would get), but doesn't QUITE get to the point of feeling like it should have been two movies. And Nolan doesn't make the mistake of cutting out some of the side stories to get it in under two hours...it's things like Jim Gordon's rival's personal story or the orphanage subplot that do more than drive the main plot, they give more impact to the big explody ending (I think I can safely say that "there is a big explody ending" is not a spoiler). Were there stupid plot points? Sure. Plenty, if you sit down and pick the movie apart afterwards. But just like the first movie, which depended on a plot device of staggering stupidity, Nolan managed to craft a movie where I didn't ask those embarrassing questions of the movie while I was actually watching it. I enjoyed the movie while I was in the theater, and regardless of all the nitpicks that get presented afterwards, I cannot recall having been bothered by any of them at the time. That would seem to be Nolan's talent, helping the audience suspend disbelief sufficiently to get into the tale. It probably also helped that I avoided all Bat-Events DC sprang on readers starting in the early 90s, so I had no prior knowledge of how any of the story elements were Supposed To Happen. And in that respect, I'm like over 99% of the viewing public. Strongly recommended, just don't think about it too hard (or at all) after you leave the theater. Seriously, it falls apart when you start to analyze it, but it's enjoyable to just watch. (Side note that's not really a spoiler, but discussion of which could lead to spoilers: the guy who plays the U.S. President in a brief scene has played the President in another fictional universe, thus inviting speculation that both pieces of fiction take place in the same universe. :) ) Prepare To Die!: Night Shade Books - This is a superhero novel from Paul Tobin, who I mainly know from his writing on the Marvel Adventures books. I got the ebook version from baenebooks.com (cheaper than Kindle or iBooks versions, and available in multiple formats), although if it hadn't been available through them I probably would have gone with the Kindle edition. The premise of this story is fairly clever...without giving away too much, it's about a superhero literally preparing to die. Taking care of unfinished business and that sort of thing. The narrative voice tends to skip around a bit, sometimes in-the-moment, sometimes clearly telling a story to someone else in the scene, and other times talking to the reader and definitely saying things that are not meant for the ears of anyone actually in his world. I kept thinking back to the movie trailer line, "Just because I'm telling you this story, don't assume I survived it" (or whatever the exact words were), although the narrator never specifically says something along those lines. In tone, this reminded me most closely of the earlier issues of Marshal Law, before it became random vicious parody. It's a world where most, but not all, superhumans trace their origins to deliberate attempts to create powers (plus a few cases here and there that seem to be unrelated). And where it seems like only a matter of time before heroes either go insane or get killed (or both)...where only a total bastard can stay on the side of the angels, because he's too mean to die and too cynical to go mad. Reaver is that total bastard, and he's preparing to die. Structurally, it's built around the Big Reveal. As Reaver gets his bucket list checked off, various secrets are told, sometimes to people he meets and sometimes only to the reader. It did get to the point where I was kind of surprised there WASN'T a Shocking Reveal about some characters, as it was heading down the "no one in Reaver's life is what they seem" path for a while. And it was pretty obvious fairly early on that the Big Bad's secret identity would be one of the Shocking Reveals (i.e. we would find out, and it wouldn't just be someone Reaver didn't recognize). Still, the nature of the setting allowed for plenty of big reveals, so it wasn't until pretty late in the book that the suspects got narrowed down, and even then Tobin managed to wring a few extra paragraphs of uncertainty out of it by throwing in another (albeit perfectly sensible in retrospect) twist. Derek Radner would certainly be proud of Octagon. One warning, while there's not much in the way of explicit sexual content per se, there's an awful lot that's, um, plicit? More than implicit, but only rarely going into very specific details. How shocking you find it, especially the flashback sequences from Reaver's teenaged years, depends a lot on which side of the "getting some" fence you were in high school, I expect. Oh, and there's quite a bit of cussing. Strongly recommended provided you're not turned off by some foul language and occasional references to sex and gore. $6.00 at baenebooks.com ($7.99 Kindle, I think it was closer to $11-12 at iBooks store, otherwise it's a hardcover book right now). Digital Content: Unless I find a really compelling reason to do so, I won't be turning this into a webcomic review column. Rather, stuff in this section will be full books available for reading online or for download, usually for pay. I will often be reading these things on my iPod if it's at all possible. Transformers ReGeneration One #80.5: IDW - The Free Comic Book Day issue went up on ComiXology a couple of months after FCBD, the same week #81 hit shelves. WITNESS! Ahem. The premise of ReGeneration One is that Simon Furman and Andrew Wildman are getting a chance to pick up the threads of their Marvel run on Transformers, although it's not the same story Furman would have told if the book hadn't been cancelled (it shares some elements, but I've read the script he made available a few years back, and it goes in a rather different direction). This FCBD comic combines flashbacks with present-day scenes in seemingly random order, to remind people of some of the plot danglers and set up the new conflict as the decades of peace start to fray. Soundwave may be an uncharismatic boor, but he knows how to manipulate a crowd. The storytelling is pretty scattered, and I know from skimming #81 that Furman is giving in to his propensity to blow things up for shock value, but I liked it more than some did. And less than others. I'm probably in the middle between the "why do they let Furman keep writing?" crowd and the "YAY GEEWUN LIVES!" fans. I expect I'll wait and read the series as it hits the discount level on ComiXology rather than paying full price the week of release. SDCC Skybound Sampler 2012: Image - Now this is a good promotional freebie! The complete first issues of Invincible, Super Dinosaur, Astonishing Wolf-Man, Tech Jacket, Brit, Battle Pope and Guarding the Globe, for 186 pages of comics. And since it's digital delivery, the distribution costs are minimal, an advantage of this format over hardcopy freebies. Of course, it doesn't have much chance of getting me to spend money, given that I've already bought some or all of most of the titles, leaving only Brit and Battle Pope as new territory (and neither impressed me enough to want to read more, although Brit came close). Definitely worth grabbing if there's even one of these books you haven't tried yet, though. Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures #4: Red5 Comics - Once again, the Sparrow story isn't really long enough to do much, I think it'd read better if it were a one-shot all on its own. Sure, it gets a cliffhanger every issue, but it feels...under-threatening. "The Dark Age" is a done-in-one story set in the 1990s in which Robo discovers what happened to comics in the decades since he last read any. Yeah, 1990s comics are kinda an easy target, but Clevinger does a good job with it anyway. "Most Perfect Science Division" isn't so much a story as it is a character introduction, putting China's answer to Robo through its paces. Intriguing, hopefully Clevinger has plans to go somewhere with this and isn't just tossing the idea out there. "Leaping Metal Dragon" nicely turns the tables on Robo...I mean, it's obvious that once he started sparring with Bruce Lee in earnest he'd lose a lot, but Clevinger takes it an extra step or two past the obvious. And finally "The Survivor" gives us the origins of one of the series regulars. One weak story, two good stories and two very good stories add up to a Strongly Recommended from me. $1.99 at ComiXology. Sanctuary #5: Slave Labor Graphics - Most of the sinister plots reach a head this issue, although it's not clear if there's just ONE overarching plot or several conspiracies that just happen to be racing to be the first to complete their plans. I'm afraid it's gotten a bit too tangled for casual reading at this point, you might be better served to wait until #6 comes out and then read all six issues at once (I'm assuming #6 will have the climax of the story). 99 cents at ComiXology. Trades: Trade paperbacks, collections, graphic novels, pocket manga, whatever. If it's bigger than a "floppy" it goes here. Nothing this time. Floppies: If I actually pick up some monthly issues, they'll go here. Given my reluctance to put money in Diamond's hands, though, these would likely only be review copies or stuff found in oddball places. And no, I don't have any particular disdain for the monthlies, but they *are* floppy, yes? And like floppy disks they may be a doomed format. Ultimate Spider-Man #3: Marvel - Two very forgettable stories. Literally...a few days after reading this, I couldn't remember if I'd gotten around to reading it yet. At this point, I'm going stop buying this series unless there's a writer I like attached to one of the stories (Semahn and Kalan just don't cut it). Actually, I almost passed on this one, but Ty Templeton drew the lead story, so I had hopes it'd at least be worth looking at, but it's kinda average for him. Neutral. $2.99 I've since poked at #4 on the shelf, but with writing by Eugene Son (who?) and Frank Tieri (on my "avoid" list), it stayed on the shelf. Avengers Earth's Mightiest Heroes #4: Marvel - While the cover claims "Hulk vs. The Thing", the real lead story is a short reimagining of Marvel Two-in-One Annyal #7, with the Champion. But instead of winning through heart and guts, the Thing finds a different path to victory, heh. The second story has Hawkeye hitting on Black Widow during a running fight against Hydra, moderately amusing. Lead story by Yost, second story by Caramanga. Mildly recommended. $2.99 Young Justice #18: DC - The first two pages summarize the cartoon stories that took place between #17 and the start of this story, providing about as much closer as comics-only followers of the series are going to get on the Tornado siblings storyline. Still, good to see it covered explicitly, even if only in a few pages. The new story started this issue picks up on loose ends of Wolf's origin story, while bringing in this continuity's version of Gorilla City. Very good writing from Weisman, decent art from Christopher Jones, although the inking is a bit heavy-handed in places. Recommended. $2.99 Dave Van Domelen, "That was like...being hit by a truck. And I've BEEN hit by trucks." - Atomic Robo
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